Off World

Off World

The sky is full of broken dreams. For as long as I can remember our people have been trying to escape from this world. It’s not our home, was never our home. It’s a prison that we’ve been condemned to. There are no warders, no doors – nothing to keep us here but the unbelievable distance between us and the rest of the universe. There are barely a handful of stars visible at night, but they serve as a reminder that this world is not the only one.

We launched another rocket last night, and its failure was assumed before it even reached the atmosphere, so far depressed are our hopes and dreams. It cascaded down out of the sky, Lucifer’s tears falling back to earth. Once its blazing shards had passed I looked up and watched the husks and wrecks in low orbit circling this wretched planet. The current plan is to get into orbit and engineer those failed dreams into a single creation. With the present failure rate to even get into space this seems optimistic. In the meantime we’ve carved this world into a machine aimed solely at reaching the stars – vast tracts of land upturned as we mine for precious ores, seas drained for the elements held in their water, mountains turned into factories, gantries and launch platforms. Not only is this not our home, but we’re perilously close to ensuring we could never live here forever, even if we had to. More desperation to fuel the effort.

More plans, more schemes. Space elevators created the hard way by harpooning orbital debris from land, new propulsion and rocket technologies… can we just move the planet…? Everything is possible, yet everything fails. We truly have been dumped at the end of the galaxy, and even this planet’s riches and our species’ natural ingenuity and drive might not be enough to save us. It’s not a popular view, and the stubbornness of our people smashes through such doubts. We assess risk, we balance possibilities, but we do not countenance doubt.

And yet, one day – a breakthrough. A manned flight punches up through the atmosphere like a blow to the heavens, to all our jailers. Miraculously they discover that some of our failures have failed less spectacularly than we imagined. Our people are alive and in orbit, and they’ve begun the work of dragging our efforts together. We daren’t risk bringing them back down. They’ll live or die up there.

That one success opens the door to all our other schemes. Their progress multiplies all the others, becomes a tumbling rock that rolls through all obstacles. Before we know it, we’re blasting vast quantities of materials up into space, where they’re deftly caught by the developing robotic technology circling us and fit into the structure now extending across the heavens. You can even see it by day, an arcing diamond comprised of all the failed efforts to escape the world, and everything we’ve sent up since. The processed materiel, the people. We’re steadily shifting our population offworld and into our new – temporary – home, the one that will take us back into the galaxy of stars we were barred from. I hunger for the sight of more stars in the sky.

We’re done. We’re leaving this scarred husk of a planet behind. We’ve killed its oceans, flattened its peaks, marred its sky. All in service of our escape. Even as our vessel enters its final countdown that will tear us through space away from this world, our prison, I can’t help but wonder if we could have made this place our home. Is this to be our fate, wrecking one world to travel to another?